When you have lived the lives that I have led throughout the aeons, you will learn to appreciate the perspective that is unique to death.
I have walked closely with Death, for he is my friend. Yet he has never embraced me, and for that I resent him. He is loyal but jealous, for although he has been with me throughout my life, he ensures that only he will stay with me through the ages.
Time is a constant companion to all but me. I watch as all I know ages and fades away, while I remain perpetually stuck in a young body that stubbornly refuses to let me grow old with them.
My birth name is no more, lost to time. In this life, I am Cassander, the wanderlust-filled writer. This is my story.
I have been the greatest catalyst for progress during some of the greatest civilisations, yet at others, a mere spectator who never celebrated their victories nor shared in their sorrows. I was there, next to Newton as he made discoveries into the world of physics and mathematics. A conversation and a night of stargazing with my old friends sparked Galileo’s ideas that now define modern astronomy. Yet when Genghis Khan made his rampaging conquest across central Asia, I chose to live the life of a simple merchant.
I have witnessed the rise and fall of the world’s most glorious eras, as well as its darkest ages. Some would dream of obtaining my longevity, others would think it wondrous to experience so much of history, but to me, it is a curse. The beauty I see is not in the advancements achieved nor the history made, but in the people who lived through it. The complexity of each person is astounding and breathtaking. The cruel reality, however, that beauty always fades. Constantine I, Bach, Nightingale; regardless of their contributions, all eventually disappeared like leaves blown away by the autumn breeze. All I am left with are memories that I can’t escape, memories of the friends I made in brief flashes throughout my seemingly endless life.
Some would expect that I would become desensitised after so long, that I would be used to Death visiting everyone around me, but the pain of losing those you cherish, the soul-piercing ache that makes surviving unimaginable, still haunts me every time. It doesn’t matter what type of person I live as; be it cold and detached or lively and caring, the loss of each person throughout my various lives carves a scar so deep that at times I wish to not feel. Without emotions, there can be no love. Without love, there can be no pain.
Millenia ago, I saw my parents grow old and depart this world. I mourned them, but comforted myself that I still had my siblings and my own family with me. It became soon apparent, though, that while they grew older, I did not. I hopelessly watched as my siblings, then my children, passed on. Like sand pouring through my fingers, everything seemed to spiral out of control, and all I could do was watch despairingly. People say that it’s a tragedy when a parent has to bury their children, but what about someone who has to bury their children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren, until so much time has passed that they’re unrecognisable to their descendants? Until all they can do is observe from the shadows, wishing desperately to be a part of their children’s world but knowing it’s not possible?
That was how I spent the first few centuries of my life; in a never ending cycle of joy and suffering at watching yet another descendant grow and age. I reached my lowest point during the Crusades. There, I fought not because I believed in any of their causes, but simply to protect my home and those I loved. Yet all was in vain. No matter how hard and how long I battled, eventually my home was pillaged and burnt down, those I cared for joining the masses of civilian casualties.
I failed them.
It was at that point when I felt that all was lost. The people I’d fought under cared nothing but for their victory, ignoring the losses that sprang from their mindless pursuit of their goal and I could do nothing on my own to protect those I cherished. It was then that I gave up. I’d lost faith in humanity. What kind of world did I want to live in when the living no longer valued the lives of others? When I was powerless to do anything? I couldn’t accept any more deaths. People were there one day, gone the next. I was left behind, left with all the guilty what ifs. The things you should’ve said, the things you should’ve done. It really was true, you don’t fully appreciate the people around you until they disappear and you can’t do anything about it. Everything was, ironically for someone who lived outside of Time’s reach, too late.
Feeling like everything was out of both hopeless and pointless, I hid deep in the mountains, a recluse. No one but Time visited, decades melding into each other. I nearly went mad on my own. Until I met Kate.
She was just a child when she found me in the cabin. Disarmingly innocent and sincere, she didn’t seem fazed by finding a stranger in the middle of nowhere. Instead, she merely gave me the brightest of smiles and offered me a handful of wild flowers she’d picked up from the ground during her exploration of the forest. That was the start of an unlikely but magical friendship. We held a conversation, one of many to come, seated side by side, watching the sky change colours as the day passed, she enjoying the tales I told of the past and I appreciating the company and conversation of one untouched by the horrors of the world.
One day, however, years later, during another morning in which we watched the forest welcome autumn, she revealed to me that she was dying. She said it in such a matter-of-fact manner that I couldn’t help but to ask her how she simply accepted it, when she could have so many years to live. She simply replied, “I’ve lived for plenty of time for myself. I’m not afraid of death; I’ve lived a joyful life and I’m ready for whatever comes next. I’m sorry I’ll have to leave my friends behind, but I hope that I’ve shown them how to find the beauty in everything themselves too. I want them to remember me with fondness, and not pain. Memories I’ve created with others shouldn’t bring them agony, but joy.”
Oh, how my heart ached. That someone so young could speak such words with ease was both a tragedy and a comfort to one such as me, who was tormented over the death of every friend and family. Eventually she passed on, smiling gently in her sleep when Death paid her a visit. Of course, I grieved for her. Yet, for once I didn’t feel like a part of me had been carved out. Rather, it had been that she had helped me to find the peace that was like a salve over my gaping, festering wounds that had been carved with the loss of every person. I could continue my life without the threat of overwhelming guilt consuming me.
Now, whenever I see the first flash of orange leaves floating down from the trees, swaying as if to usher autumn in, I am reminded of that conversation, and reflect on all those dear to me. Yes, Death had come for them, but knowing that, they lived their life to the fullest. The things they achieved would benefit those they left behind, a legacy that would live on forever. They understood that they wouldn’t live forever, and they harnessed that knowledge to motivate themselves to reach new heights. My own experiences had shown me that life was balanced; those who tasted the brightest aspects of it had to first endure the cruellest of sufferings so they could appreciate the sweet parts more. My memories were no longer a burden, but a comfort to draw strength from and be treasured.
Written By: Marinella Lotte